“Then I was senseless and ignorant; I was [like] a beast before You.” Psalm 73:22 [NASB]
Easter unexpectedly marked the beginning of a downhill slide for me. In retrospect I believe it was because Easter of 2017 held the last vivid and cohesive memories I have of Sarah prior to the day before the accident. All the days in between were just normal days and the memories they held have sadly blurred together. As a result it felt like I crested the edge of a steep slope on Easter Sunday and have been involuntarily sliding toward Sarah’s death ever since. Sliding faster and faster with each painful reminder, Senior prom, Mother’s Day, and graduation festivities.
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual [forces] of wickedness in the heavenly [places.]” Ephesians 6:12 [NASB]
As I continued to slide I struggled to keep my eyes fixed on the Lord. In the midst of the struggle our adversary “who prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” was not unaware of my plight (1 Pet. 5:8). Paralleling the speed at which I was sliding, spiritual warfare ramped up as interruptions, inconveniences and trials abounded, one after the other. As deep discouragement set in and despair started to loom, a strategically aimed blazing arrow pierced. A dissertation of judgment and criticism ignorantly and foolishly hurled Scott’s way regarding how he should be moving on from the grief of Sarah’s absence.
It was yet another brilliant scheme of the adversary. It would have been easier to overlook had it been spoken about me, but untruths and ignorant assumptions being spoken about Scott, a consistent rock of faith and security for our family, threw me into rage. Struggling to limp through the jagged terrain of this deep valley, my heart was now seething at the lofty and presumptuous words of those with complete families tucked in secure places and spared from sorrow. My spirit screamed within me as I saw the impact of the arrow on Scott. He was Job and they were Job’s friends, wrongly judging, presuming and assuming they could better understand and navigate this dark valley path they have never seen, touched nor rightly imagined. In my sorrow, distress and anger I cried out to God at the cruelty and injustice of it all.
Weary with knees trembling and near buckling I wept with jealousy at the ease of those casting judgment. I was jealous their families were intact and mine was not. I was jealous that I bear this deep sorrow and longing in my soul and they do not. I was enraged that they stood coolly removed from the refiner’s flames admonishing us of our need for faith, not recognizing we’ve stood in the flames for almost two years not only desiring but cherishing His refining of our faith. However, as the gripping sorrow collided with exasperation, anger and jealousy, I felt my faith in danger of faltering.
“But as for me, my feet came close to stumbling, My steps had almost slipped.” Psalm 73:2 [NASB]
The crushing weight of my deep sorrow, anger, and jealousy culminated in profound weariness. Nonetheless, choosing to trust His faithfulness, I continued to seek Him daily through His Word and in His time He once again powerfully met me there. The Psalm for that day’s reading was Psalm 73.
“For I was envious of the arrogant [As] I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
For there are no pains in their death, And their body is fat.
They are not in trouble [as other] men, Nor are they plagued like mankind. …
They mock and wickedly speak of oppression; They speak from on high. …
Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure And washed my hands in innocence;
For I have been stricken all day long And chastened every morning.” Psalm 73:3-5, 8, 13-14 [NASB]
The Psalmist Asaph, inspired by God, precisely recorded the turmoil of his heart and mine. Surely it was the voice of the enemy whispering in both his ear and mine, “in vain have you kept your heart pure And washed your hands in innocence. For you have been stricken all day long and chastened every morning.” An ages old taunt to cause us to question the faithfulness and justice of our righteous and holy God. Praise God that’s not where the lament of Asaph stops, though. Asaph continues, “When I pondered to understand this, It was troublesome in my sight until I came into the sanctuary of God; [Then] I perceived their end” (Psa 73:16-17).
“…It was troublesome in my sight until I came into the sanctuary of God…” Psalm 73:16-17 [NASB]
Entering into the presence of God through His Word and counsel, Asaph’s gaze was removed from his afflictions and adversaries, and his focus was once again rightly on God. Just as Paul later admonished, Asaph was reminded in God’s presence to “look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:18).
Convicted by God graciously refocusing His attention to eternity, he cried out in repentance, “When my heart was embittered and I was pierced within, then I was senseless and ignorant; I was [like] a beast before You” (Psalm 73:21-22). How those words convicted me. I, too, was allowing my heart to become embittered and pierced within. I was senseless and ignorant and like a beast before my God as I gave vent to the anger and jealousy that had roused within me. How my heart ached at the conviction. As I read the next words His graciousness took my breath away.
“Nevertheless I am continually with You; You have taken hold of my right hand.” Psalm 73:23 NASB]
It was as though God Himself gently whispered into my ear, “you’re right, Karen. Your allowing this anger and jealousy to stir in your heart has caused you to behave like an ignorant beast before Me, NEVERTHELESS you are continually with me because I have taken hold of your right hand.” What a blessed reminder that in His lovingkindness and compassion He never loses sight of the fact that we are but dust (Psalm 103:14). Though in the frailty of our humanity we may trip and fall we will never fall from His grasp or His presence.
“When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, Because the LORD is the One who holds his hand.” Psalm 37:24 [NASB]
Asaph goes on to record that not only does God comfort us through His continual presence and His faithfulness to uphold us by the right hand, but he promises to lead us forward, saying, “With Your counsel You will guide me. And afterward receive me to glory” (Psalm 73:24). A precious reminder that as we wait on Him spending time in His Word and prayer He will faithfully guide us in His time, sanctifying and refining us all along the way. And praise Him all the more for the reminder that He will guide us until He receives us to Glory.
If you feel defeated and discouraged because you, too, have been senseless and ignorant like a beast before our righteous and holy God, I pray that the beautiful truths contained in the lament of Asaph will encourage you as well. As we bask in our Father’s lovingkindness, faithfulness and compassion that moves Him to continually uphold us in spite of our failures, may our hearts burst forth in praise to Him in unison with Asaph:
“Whom have I in heaven but You?
And besides You, I desire nothing on earth.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
For, behold, those who are far from You will perish;
You have destroyed all those who are unfaithful to You.
But as for me, the nearness of God is my good;
I have made the Lord GOD my refuge,
That I may tell of all Your works.
Psalm 73:25-28 [NASB]
Come, Lord Jesus.
Artwork : Sarah Harmening